Editor's Note: After this post was first published this morning, a spokesperson for UberX contacted Riptide and said the company does not have a driver registered under the name Jahrvone Bentley. Riptide got in touch with Bentley, who claimed he was using a pseudonym out of fear of reprisal from the company; Riptide guaranteed Bentley's anonymity and asked for documentation confirming that he is in fact an UberX driver. Bentley provided it.
When Miami native Jahrvone Bentley heard UberX was coming to his city, he thought driving for the company would be a good way to earn some cash.
Three weeks later he's disgusted. "They don't care about the drivers," he tells Riptide. "The drivers are losing."
UberX is a division of the popular San Francisco startup Uber, an app-based cab-like service that uses professional drivers in sleek black cars. But UberX functions in a way similar to ride-sharing, allowing the app users to book rides on the cheap from people who aren't licensed cabbies but have registered to work as drivers for the company.
In very public defiance of local officials, who say the company illegally undercuts licensed local cab drivers, UberX launched in Miami June 4. (Uber's other services, Uber Black and Uber Taxi, so far remain unavailable in the Magic City.)
Before the launch, Bentley saw advertisements saying UberX drivers were wanted. Enticed by promotions that he says promised drivers could earn upward of $1,000 per week, he signed up and started driving on the launch date.
But his experience with the company has been a disaster. UberX doesn't allow its customers to tip, but Bentley has been disillusioned by the company's practice of taking an additional 20 percent cut from the fares. UberX sends drivers alerts via iPhone for customers to pick up, but because there's no way in advance to know how far the customer wants to go, Bentley says, he's often ended up spending more on gas than he earned from the fare.
"You get to Coconut Grove," he says, "you might be taking that person one block away."
Worse, he says, the company actually encourages the inefficiency through text messages suggesting drivers visit specific locations that often don't pan out. "It's a very deceitful practice," he says. "When we get out there, there's nobody."
Bentley also says that the company refused to reimburse him for a cleaning fee after a woman spilled a bowl of alcohol in his back seat, because he hadn't submitted the right paperwork, and that once his electronic dashboard tally, which counts the number of trips he's completed, was mysteriously reduced by 20 percent.
"My money literally disappeared when I came home," he says. "And I was really upset because I worked for that."
After driving four long days a week -- sometimes 18 hours a day -- Bentley says his official earnings are recorded around $1,700. After expenses and UberX's fees, he says it's more like $450. "After all, I really only make 25 to 30 percent of what [they say] I earn," he says. "That's what I'm finding out."
A spokesperson for UberX, Natalia Montalvo, says that she hadn't heard of such complaints from Miami drivers and that the company's Magic City launch had been a success. "Miami's been one of our fastest-growing markets," she says. "We've seen really great demand on the riders' side and the drivers' side." Montalvo pledges to look more specifically into Bentley's complaints.
On May 8, time.com reported that nearly 100 disgruntled UberX drivers protested outside the company's San Francisco headquarters after it raised its cut to 20 percent of the fares. The drivers formed a circle and shouted their grievances, which included the lack of tips and inability to make decent wages because of the company's low-cost rides.
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"Our number one demand," driver Ramzi Raguii told the website, "is take care of your drivers. Quit burning and churning through drivers."
Bentley says he hasn't yet quit driving for UberX but is strongly considering it. "You keep losing and losing," he says. "It starts to look like extortion."